The Construct

Toward the Inner Chamber, by Vidom.

Toward the Inner Chamber, by Vidom.

The first breath you take in a VR construct is always an odd experience. Your mind knows it doesn’t need to breathe, that where you are isn’t real and so the air isn’t either, but try holding your breath and see what happens. Kate ignored the illusion of a breeze as it pushed strands of hair away from her face. She didn’t open her eyes, still seeing flashes of a bright white light behind the lids. They were supposed to have fixed that months ago, the transition is meant to be seemless. Close your eyes on an operating table, open them wherever the hell you want.

“Okay Kate, you’re in.”

There was no white light when she opened her eyes, in fact there wasn’t not much of anything at all. Which wasn’t good.

“In? In where Rex? I can’t see a damn thing except the floor.”

It’s static coated and fading in and out but she can hear Rex’s fingers punching at the keys in the Control Room. He’s not exactly the gentle type. She waited, weight shifting from one foot to the other. Below her a tiled floor stretched on for several metres in every direction, the hexagon shapes that made it up were knitted together like a jigsaw. It was curved and clear but there was nothing visible below it. “Rex? Come on, mate.”

“Hang on a sec, I had a fix but I lost you again.”

“Not on the Pandora server then.” Kate sighed and walked forward to the edge of the floor. Sensing her movement, it expanded in front of her so she couldn’t reach the end.

A construct is like a blank page, lines of code made solid but there’s no soul there yet. The program functions like all their machines do, but the difference is that when it’s allow to interact with a human it takes a little piece of them and creates something beautiful. VR is a safe heaven to the people they treat, it represents safety and solace where before there was only fear and pain. Kate is no healer, but she likes the fact that she helps people. Well, when the Analysts do their damn job anyway. “Rex!”

“You are on the right server it’s just, there’s nothing there.”

“Tell me something I don’t know. Like why the hell they hired you?”

“Haha very funny.”

Every server has enough memory for six constructs, meaning there are six patients under the care of a single server at any one time. Kate and other Game Master’s like her are in charge of virtual safety and comfort, answering patient requests and questions as they come in and relating real-time information about their health and treatments. When a patient is removed from the system their construct has to be restored to default, and part of Kate’s job is making sure the it’s ready for another user. This was usually a five minute job. Well, it was when she landed in the right place anyway.

“Okay,” Rex said into her ear, “Looks like the program shifted you into a sub level.”

“A sub-level? The hell does that mean? Rex… Am I in the Recycle Bin?!”

Kate listened to him laugh and was about to join in when the floor started to shimmer, fading in and out of existence. She stumbled, one foot dropping through the air and managed to hold on by her fingertips when the rest of her body followed. She had enough time to mumble a curse before slipping through and then falling. She felt herself twist, tumbling down and down and shouting at Rex the entire time.

“Just calm down, I’m working on it!”

“Disconnect me you son of a bitch!”

“Hang on!”

“Disconnect me!”

In the early stages, before the system passed clinical trials and was sold to MedTech, people were able to take themselves out of constructs by will. It was a safety algorithm put in place to appease the naysayers. The people who saw separation of body and mind as some sort of sin. Those paranoid protesters claimed it would be all to easy for the technology to be used to cause harm, to trap people against their will somewhere they didn’t want to be. It could be used as the most terrifying means of torture ever invented, they said. Of course, that was all very well outside the medical sector, but a patient in surgery needs to be kept under – no one wants to wake up and see a knife cutting into their skin. So MedTech petitioned for the algorithm to be isolated. It was the success of their case which meant all Kate could do just then was scream her damn head off.

“Okay! Gotcha!”

For a moment Kate had the opportunity to feel how Armstrong must have done over a century ago, her body appearing to float before landing gently. She turned so her feet touched the ground first, her head swimming. “What the hell was all that about?” She asked, gasping in non existent air. The world around her was shining, rounded pillars of green and gold standing tall and disappearing from sight above. It looked like a corridor, light and clean. She could see herself reflected in every surface. “The hell am I?”

“Not in a sub-level anymore, that’s for sure.”

Kate moved forward, moving passed the open spaces in the floor and around the circular columns. It was metallic and strange, nothing a patient would envision. “I’m in the core.” She whispered, a hand reaching out to glide across the wall as she walked.

Rex paused. “Yeah,” he said after a minute. “I mean, I knew it was possible, but we’re not supposed to be able to access it.”

Kate ignored him, eyes glazing over with the brilliance of it all. This was were all the servers in the system connected. This was were hundreds of little pieces of everyone they ever treated were stored. Saved and protected, allowing the program to learn and better itself. A hundred thousand memories were being housed inside the pillars she was standing beside. All those little moments in people’s lives they’d let go for a chance at peace and comfort while doctors worked to tame their bodies and prolong their lives. “This is amazing.”

“I’ll bet, but I have to disconnect you. We were supposed to clear construct four half an hour ago.”

Kate didn’t argue, listening to him roll his chair from one console to another, typing in commands as he went. She took the time to memorise as much as she could. She was probably the only GM to have ever been there.

“Okay,” Rex told her, “Waking you up in five, four, three, two…”

And then another flash of pure white light. She’d really have to get the Programming department to look into that.


Copyright © 2013 All Rights Reserved.

For those interested in reading more about Kate and her journeys through MedTech’s VR world, you’re in luck! Her adventures continue in Sentience, my soon to be serial novel (release date TBA). Thanks for reading!

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